Tyler Ennis, C.J. Fair once again display late-game poise for No. 1 Syracuse (VIDEO)

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In the history of the Petersen Events Center, No. 25 Pittsburgh had never lost a game against a top five opponent. Nine games, nine wins for the Panthers. And on Wednesday night it looked as if Jamie Dixon’s Panthers would make it 10-0, with their mastery of the offensive glass being a big reason why they led No. 1 Syracuse for the majority of the game.

But as they’ve done all season long the top-ranked Orange, specifically senior forward C.J. Fair and freshman point guard Tyler Ennis, made the big plays they needed to make in order to win. That tandem combined to score Syracuse’s final 13 points of the game, with Ennis making the biggest play of the season to date. That play: a three-pointer from about 35 feet out to give the Orange the 58-56 win, moving their record to 24-0 overall and 11-0 in the ACC.

(MORE: Is Pitt now a bubble team?)

As noted Syracuse has been down this road on multiple occasions this season and one reason why they continue to win tight games is the presence of Ennis, who is one of the nation’s most important players. Against Pittsburgh Ennis finished with 13 points and five assists, but the amazing stat is what the freshman did for the first time this season.

According to ESPN Stats Info, Ennis’ turnover with 3:14 remaining was the first that he’s committed in the final five minutes of a game this season. While many freshmen tend to experience seasons similar to a ride on a roller coaster, the smooth and seemingly never-rushed Ennis has been a model of consistency for the Orange this season. And given their lack of depth at the position, with Michael Gbinije seeing some spot duty at the position in order to give Ennis a break, Syracuse needed that to be the case.

In fact Ennis has been even better than advertised, and his combination of talent and poise has helped make Syracuse one of the favorites to win the national title.

But even with the last-second heroics, this wasn’t a one-man effort for Syracuse. Fair scored ten of his 14 points in the second half, Trevor Cooney added 11 points and both Gbinije and Rakeem Christmas added seven apiece for a team that played just six players against a deeper Pittsburgh squad. Syracuse scored just 58 points but they averaged 1.07 points per possession on the night, and when judging this team offensively it’s better to look at their efficiency as opposed to simply observing how many points they’ve scored.

Entering Wednesday, Syracuse ranked fifth nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency and 18th in turnover percentage per kenpom.com. The Orange may not run, but they take full advantage of the possessions they do get. However in the aftermath of Thursday’s win there is an important area the Orange need to address, especially with reserve center Baye Moussa Keita sidelined with a sprained right knee.

That concern: rebounding. Pittsburgh managed to rebound 47.1% of its missed shots, outscoring Syracuse 15-3 in second chance points. Luckily for Syracuse their starting center, Chrismas, was able to stay on the floor after battling foul trouble on Sunday night against Clemson. That meant Syracuse didn’t have to use Jerami Grant in the middle of the 2-3 zone too often, and given the way Talib Zanna (seven offensive rebounds) hurt the Orange on the glass things could have been worse had that been the case.

However even with that concern the Orange found a way to win, with Fair and Ennis once again making the needed plays in crunch time. Some teams simply know how to finish out games, and by now it’s clear that Syracuse fits the bill.

2019 NBA Draft Early Entry List: Who declared? Who is returning? Who are we waiting on?

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Here is a full list of the players that have signed with an agent, declared and are testing the waters and those that have decided to return to school. The NBA released its official list of early entry candidates as it includes 233 total names –175 coming from colleges or other educational institutions. 

Underclassmen have until April 22nd to declare for the NBA draft this season and until May 29th to remove their name from consideration and return to college. With players now allowed to sign with agents, we’re not designating players who are “testing the waters” vs. declaring with an intention to stay in the draft.

One change worth remembering here is that underclassmen are now allowed to hire an agent to help them navigate their way through the NBA draft process, and that is expected to increase the number of players that test the waters of the draft. 

The NBA Draft Combine will be held May 16-20 this year. 

This will be updated throughout the spring, as more and more players put their names in the mix. 

2019 EARLY ENTRANTS

  • MILAN ACQUAAH, California Baptist
  • BRYCE AIKEN, Harvard
  • NICKEIL ALEXANDER-WALKER, Virginia Tech
  • AL-WAJID AMINU, North Florida
  • DESMOND BANE, TCU
  • R.J. BARRETT, Duke
  • CHARLES BASSEY, Western Kentucky
  • TYUS BATTLE, Syracuse
  • TROY BAXTER JR., FGCU
  • DARIUS BAZLEY, Princeton High School (OH)
  • KERRY BLACKSHEAR JR, Virginia Tech
  • PHIL BLEDSOE, Glenville State
  • BOL BOL, Oregon
  • MARQUES BOLDEN, Duke
  • JORDAN BONE, Tennessee
  • KY BOWMAN, Boston College
  • DAQUAN BRACEY, Louisiana Tech
  • KEITH BRAXTON, St. Francis (PA)
  • IGGY BRAZDEIKIS, Michigan
  • OSHAE BRISSETT, Syracuse
  • ARMONI BROOKS, Houston
  • CHARLIE BROWN JR., Saint Joseph’s
  • MOSES BROWN, UCLA
  • YOELI CHILDS, BYU
  • BRANDON CLARKE, Gonzaga
  • NIC CLAXTON, Georgia
  • AMIR COFFEY, Minnesota
  • RJ COLE, Howard
  • TYLER COOK, Iowa
  • ANTHONY COWAN JR., Maryland
  • JARRETT CULVER, Texas Tech
  • JARRON CUMBERLAND, Cincinnati
  • CALEB DANIELS, Tulane
  • TULIO DA SILVA, Missouri State
  • AUBREY DAWKINS, UCF
  • JAVIN DELAURIER, Duke
  • SILVIO DE SOUSA, Kansas
  • MAMADI DIAKITE, Virginia
  • ALPHA DIALLO, Providence
  • JAMES DICKEY, UNC Greensboro
  • DAVID DILEO, Central Michigan
  • DAVON DILLARD, Shaw
  • LUGUENTZ DORT, Arizona State
  • DEVON DOTSON, Kansas
  • JASON DRAGGS, Lee College
  • CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue
  • CJ ELLEBY, Washington State
  • STEVE ENOCH, Louisville
  • BRUNO FERNANDO, Maryland
  • JAYLEN FISHER, TCU
  • SAVION FLAGG, Texas A&M
  • DANIEL GAFFORD, Arkansas
  • DARIUS GARLAND, Vanderbilt
  • EUGENE GERMAN, Northern Illinois
  • QUENTIN GOODIN, Xavier
  • TONY GOODWIN II, Redemption Christian Academy
  • KELLAN GRADY, Davidson
  • DEVONTE GREEN, Indiana
  • QUENTIN GRIMES, Kansas
  • JON AXEL GUDMUNDSSON, Davidson
  • KYLE GUY, Virginia
  • RUI HACHIMURA, Gonzaga
  • JAYLEN HANDS, UCLA
  • JERRICK HARDING, Weber State
  • JARED HARPER, Auburn
  • KEVON HARRIS, Stephen F. Austin
  • JAXSON HAYES, Texas
  • DEWAN HERNANDEZ, Miami
  • TYLER HERRO, Kentucky
  • AMIR HINTON, Shaw University
  • JAYLEN HOARD, Wake Forest
  • DAULTON HOMMES, Point Loma
  • TALEN HORTON-TUCKER, Iowa State
  • DE’ANDRE HUNTER, Virginia
  • TY JEROME, Virginia
  • JAYCE JOHNSON, Utah
  • KELDON JOHNSON, Kentucky
  • MARKELL JOHNSON, N.C. State
  • TYRIQUE JONES, Xavier
  • MFIONDU KABENGELE, Florida State
  • SACHA KILLEYA-JONES, N.C. State
  • LOUIS KING, Oregon
  • V.J. KING, Louisville
  • NATHAN KNIGHT, William & Mary
  • SAGABA KONATE, West Virginia
  • MARTIN KRAMPELJ, Creighton
  • ROMEO LANGFORD, Indiana
  • CAMERON LARD, Iowa State
  • A.J. LAWSON, South Carolina
  • DEDRIC LAWSON, Kansas
  • JALEN LECQUE, Brewster Academy (N.C. State recruit)
  • JACOB LEDOUX, Texas-Permian Basin
  • NASSIR LITTLE, UNC
  • TEVIN MACK, Alabama
  • JERMAINE MARROW, Hampton
  • NAJI MARSHALL, XAVIER
  • CHARLES MATTHEWS, Michigan
  • SKYLAR MAYS, LSU
  • JALEN MCDANIELS, San Diego State
  • E.J. MONTGOMERY, Kentucky
  • JA MORANT, Murray State
  • ANDREW NEMBHARD, Florida
  • KOUAT NOI, TCU
  • ZACH NORVELL JR., Gonzaga
  • JAYLEN NOWELL, Washington
  • JOEL NTAMBWE, UNLV
  • JORDAN NWORA, Louisville
  • CHUMA OKEKE, Auburn
  • KZ OKPALA, Stanford
  • MIYE ONI, Yale
  • DEVONTE PATTERSON, Prairie View A&M
  • REGGIE PERRY, Mississippi State
  • LAMAR PETERS, Mississippi State
  • FILIP PETRUSEV, Gonzaga
  • JALEN PICKETT, Siena
  • SHAMORIE PONDS, St. John’s
  • JORDAN POOLE, Michigan
  • CLETRELL POPE, Bethune-Cookman
  • JONTAY PORTER, Missouri
  • KEVIN PORTER JR., USC
  • MYLES POWELL, Seton Hall
  • PAYTON PRITCHARD, Oregon
  • NEEMIAS QUETA, Utah State
  • BRANDON RANDOLPH, Arizona
  • CAM REDDISH, Duke
  • ISAIAH REESE, Canisius
  • NAZ REID, LSU
  • NICK RICHARDS, Kentucky
  • LAQUINCY RIDEAU, South Florida
  • ISAIAH ROBY, Nebraska
  • AYINDE RUSSELL, Morehouse
  • KEVIN SAMUEL, TCU
  • PAUL SCRUGGS, Xavier
  • SAMIR SEHIC, Tulane
  • JOSH SHARKEY, Samford
  • SIMI SHITTU, Vanderbilt
  • NIKE SIBANDE, Miami OH
  • JUSTIN SIMON, St. John’s
  • D’MARCUS SIMONDS, Georgia State
  • JAVONTE SMART, LSU
  • JUSTIN SMITH, Indiana
  • DERRIK SMITS, Valparaiso
  • LAMAR STEVENS, Penn State
  • JALEN SYKES, St. Clair College (Canada)
  • ETHAN THOMPSON, Oregon State
  • KILLIAN TILLIE, Gonzaga
  • DONNIE TILLMAN, Utah
  • TRES TINKLE, Oregon State
  • OBI TOPPIN, Dayton
  • RAYJON TUCKER, Arkansas-Little Rock
  • JUSTIN TURNER, Bowling Green
  • NICK WARD, Michigan State
  • PJ WASHINGTON, Kentucky
  • TREMONT WATERS, LSU
  • KALEB WESSON, Ohio State
  • COBY WHITE, UNC
  • JIMMY WHITT, SMU
  • JOE WIESKAMP, Iowa
  • LINDELL WIGGINTON, Iowa State
  • KRIS WILKES, UCLA
  • CHARLES WILLIAMS, Howard
  • EMMITT WILLIAMS, LSU
  • GRANT WILLIAMS, Tennessee
  • ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke
  • HOLLAND WOODS II, Portland State
  • KENNY WOOTEN, Oregon

RETURNING TO SCHOOL

  • UDOKA AZUBUIKE, Kansas
  • AYO DOSUNMU, Illinois
  • ASHTON HAGANS, Kentucky
  • MARKUS HOWARD, Marquette
  • TRE JONES, Duke
  • JALEN SMITH, Maryland
  • CASSIUS WINSTON, Michigan State

Prosecutor: Greed fueled college basketball coaches’ bribes

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NEW YORK (AP) — A scandal in which college basketball coaches were bribed to steer NBA-bound players to favored agents and money managers was motivated by greed, a prosecutor told jurors Tuesday — before defense lawyers criticized the case as an FBI-led setup.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eli Mark said at the opening of a criminal trial that Christian Dawkins cheated to elevate prospects for his fledgling sports management company.

“This is a case about money, bribes and college basketball,” Mark said.

The prosecutor said Dawkins was aided in his scheme by Merl Code, a Clemson point guard in the 1990s who developed many contacts while doing work for shoemakers Nike and Adidas.

Mark said Code played a key role in the crimes by introducing college basketball coaches to two investors in Dawkins’ company. Those individuals, the prosecutor said, were undercover FBI agents.

“Why was Code doing this? Simple, greed,” Mark said.

Mark said Dawkins gave envelopes stuffed with cash to coaches who Code brought to him.

He said the men arranged payouts to coaches at the University of South Carolina, University of Arizona, University of Southern California, Creighton and Texas Christian University.

Dawkins’ attorney, Steven A. Haney Sr., said his client was 22 years old when the undercover FBI agents posing as investors and a cooperator seeking leniency from criminal charges met him on a yacht in lower Manhattan in 2017 to convince him to bribe college coaches.

Haney said that although Dawkins accepted thousands of dollars in cash given to him on the yacht, jurors will learn that Dawkins and Code resisted the plan to bribe coaches.

“He said he was going to bribe the coaches but he didn’t,” Haney said.

Haney predicted a not guilty verdict.

“You are not going to condemn a man for something he didn’t do,” the lawyer told jurors.

Attorney Andrew Mathias, representing Code, said evidence will show his client did not want to bribe coaches.

“Merl wanted to get paid for making introductions,” Mathias said.

He said Code repeatedly said coaches should not be given money.

He also told jurors they could conclude there was reasonable doubt because no coaches would testify.

Prosecutors objected, but Judge Edgardo Ramos allowed the statement.

The trial was the second to result from an investigation that’s exposed a seedy side of college basketball recruitment.

Code and Dawkins already were convicted in October on similar charges and were each sentenced to six months in prison. This time, the focus is on bribes to coaches instead of players’ families.

Former assistant basketball coaches Tony Bland at USC, Emanuel “Book” Richardson at Arizona, Chuck Person at Auburn University and Lamont Evans at South Carolina and Oklahoma State have pleaded guilty to bribery conspiracy charges and are awaiting sentencing.

North Carolina lands second 2019 guard commitment of the day

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North Carolina added another top-100 talent on the perimeter on Tuesday as four-star Class of 2019 guard Anthony Harris pledged to the Tar Heels.

The commitment from Harris comes on the same day that North Carolina made a major splash by landing five-star 2019 guard Cole Anthony.

The 6-foot-4 Harris was previously committed to Virginia Tech, but he opted to re-open his recruitment once head coach Buzz Williams left and took the same position at Texas A&M.

Missing most of his senior season with a torn ACL, Harris gives the Tar Heels another solid perimeter option who should contribute as early as next season. Playing with notable programs on the high school level like Team Takeover in the Nike EYBL and Paul VI during the high school season, Harris can contribute in many different ways.

Team Takeover was arguably the best AAU team in the country last spring and summer as Harris put up 8.6 points, 2.5 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game while shooting 46 percent from the field and 43 percent from three-point range. More importantly, Harris is a strong and willing defender who is capable of locking down opposing perimeter options.

The commitment of Harris gives North Carolina’s thin perimeter group even more depth for next season as they now have Anthony, Harris, seniors Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson and fellow freshman Jeremiah Francis. Sophomore shooter Andrew Platek is also returning.

Regarded as the No. 65 overall player in the Class of 2019 per the 247Sports composite, Harris is a quality late pickup for the Tar Heels as North Carolina’s perimeter depth looks far better at the end of Tuesday than it did entering the day. While Anthony is likely a one-and-done player, Harris will likely stay and contribute for at least a few seasons as he comes from a winning background.

Michigan’s Jordan Poole staying in 2019 NBA Draft

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Michigan sophomore guard Jordan Poole will remain in the 2019 NBA Draft, according to a post on his Instagram.

The 6-foot-5 Poole already announced his intention to declare for the NBA draft while signing an agent. But Poole has made it clear that he’ll not be returning to school before the May 29th deadline as he’s set on turning pro.

“I need to thank God for putting me in the position to walk along the right path. There has been much consideration, but after weighing all my options and having many positive discussions, my family and I, along with the help of coach (John) Beilein and the rest of the coaching staff, believe now is the right time for me to begin my professional basketball career,” Poole said in a statement. “It has been a dream of mine to play in the NBA. I feel I am ready to go after that dream.”

As a sophomore, Poole became a key piece for the Wolverines as he averaged 12.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.2 rebounds per game. Shooting 43.6 percent from the floor and 36.9 percent from three-point range, Poole is a talented shot creator who can be very streaky.

Poole’s decision to leave has major ramifications on Michigan for next season as the Wolverines currently sit at No. 2 in the NBCSports.com Preseason 2019-20 Top 25. Without Poole, Michigan will likely turn to Eli Brooks to earn more minutes.

The pro decision of freshman wing Ignas Brazdeikis now becomes a major focus for the Wolverines this offseason as his return would likely solidify Michigan as a top-five preseason team. If Brazdeikis also opted to go pro like Poole, and junior Charles Matthews, then the Wolverines would need to figure out where their offense will come from next season.

Arizona lands grad transfer Max Hazzard

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Arizona has landed a commitment from UC Irvine grad transfer Max Hazzard, one of the most sought after transfers on the market this season. Hazzard’s brother, Jacob, was a walk-on for the Wildcats from 2012-2016.

The 5-foot-10 rising senior averaged 12.5 points and 2.1 assists and shot 38.7 percent from three as a junior with the Anteaters. He put up 19 points against Kansas State’s suffocating defense in UCI’s upset win in the first round of the 2019 NCAA tournament.

Hazzard joins a perimeter in Tucson that is absolutely loaded. He joins a recruiting class that includes five-star guards Nico Mannion and Josh Green, plus four-star bigs Zeke Nnaji and Christian Koloko and four-star guard Terry Armstrong. Sean Miller also returns a number of backcourt veterans, namely Brandon Williams, Brandon Randolph and Dylan Smith.

The Wildcats look like they should be favorites, along with Oregon, to win the Pac-12 this season.